Saturday, May 14, 2011

Part 3 - “PIGS GO NATIONAL” – or – Courts of intentional cross-jurisdiction need answer neither to man nor god.

Author - Arthur
I tell you for free that it is tough working this patch.
The fiancé is off in the big smoke drinking bad coffee and chewing stale buns at this WHS conference.
Thousands down the drain and when she finally arrives back at the office it’ll surely be something really stupid like ‘compulsory suppositories to be kept and maintained in compliance with AusNZ Std 696913’, or something, in the first-aid kit.
But of course to achieve national compliance we’d have to get the states and commonwealth governments to agree on ‘uniform legislation’ in a ‘level playing field’ –
Wouldn’t we now?

Now, what the hell ever made me think about that?
Something about workplace compliance and journalists and their clients being chronically constipated?

Fair enough if we were working for SMH or the Australian, maybe?

Firstly an Editorial –

Unfair, stupid, bureaucracy enforcing ad-hoc, blanket regulation upon ever increasingly marginalised citizens simply trying to make their law abiding way in life?
Now, that sounds like us on the bitter end of the deal!
Fairly well describes why we’re doing this series of articles too.

The ever increasing hordes of quasi-legalistic parasites invading this poisonous, artificial, regulatory environment - imagined, then implemented by their mates in politics and governance appears finally to have bled this forgotten outpost of Empire dry.

‘They’ * were telling me the other day that it has all gone way beyond a joke.

One especially remarkable bloke I know has done nothing all his life except automotive engineering and specialist engine rebuilding.
Believe me, he is but one living, national treasure.

Leave a burned out, oil encrusted wreck of a donk with him along with enough funds for the necessary replacement parts and a few days later you’ll get the quiet phonecall letting you know it is time to come pick up a gleaming, zero hour, better than new, powerplant.
The emphasis in that word is on power. He can turn that unresponsive fuel guzzling clunker the factory originally turned out into something that would have had Pops Yoshimura grinding his teeth with envy.
He can do that for you with anything from a teensy model aeroplane engine up to a turbo V12 diesel. And he doesn’t charge like a wounded bull - yet.

Of course, new vehicle and plant sales people hate his sort as do their industry associations, legislators, regulatory bodies and bureaucrats.
Oh yes. Have no doubts about it. According to them, his sort is dangerous to the economy.
His sort are the true and original recyclers. They make no use of complicated infrastructure, they eschew middlemen, they minimise transport miles, they don’t burn gigawatts of energy and most of all (those of them that are still in business) they are available locally.

Our lad has accumulated several hundred thousands of dollars worth of specialized plant and precision machining equipment, all of it difficult to source, maintain and feed with consumables – yet there are no perks, tax breaks or incentives for him from government and other than the few remaining industry members of a once extensive network there’s precious little industry support to help him minimise overheads.

His has become little more than an ‘old boy’s network’ – one, like all too many others, of no influence at all.

Naturally dealerships call on his services when things go wrong with those ‘ultra reliable, smicko new vehicles. He can’t easily advise a friend as to which is the most trouble free vehicle on the road since, as he’d put it, ‘There ain’t no bastard built one yet.’

Yeah. They’re sweet to him when they need him – when the panic is on, when some ‘important bastard’ has bought a lemon or some model line has been recalled with major faults.
Sometimes they even get back to him to pay what they owe him.
(between the lines, he’s waiting for some doctor or lawyer to bring in a Ferrari or Lambo with something really silly like a vapour lock or fouled plugs so’s half an hour’s work on his part can hit them a return for the sort of outrageous money they’ve always charged him.)

But then, being on the bottom of the societal food chain like so many other self-employed he can’t afford lawyers, so consequently has to deal with bureaucrats himself.

One bureaucrat arrives at his shop one morning and demands that waste and potentially toxic residues be disposed of correctly or eliminated from his workplace.
After a discussion about how this might be achieved the bureaucrat next visits the industrial waste disposal firm our lad had been using for years – to serve them with a notice that they cease operations – or else.

On this occasion the bureaucrat pretends ‘transparency in process’ to create the illusion that the first ‘dobbed in the latter’. Acrimony and a world of unnecessary nausea for both businessmen, until they compared notes and worked out who was doing the lying.
A false flag attack fortunately foiled.

The next bureaucrat (non government this time) tells him that afternoon that he has to change his business accreditation otherwise he won’t be able to cash cheques - that’ll be x more dollars a year. Pay up or see you in court.

In functioning democracies it’s called ‘extortion by masquerading as a public official’.

A few days later it’s the insurance man. “You can pay your premium but if anything is stolen we won’t pay up.”
So our lad puts in more alarms and two ‘junkyard dogs’.

A week later the dog-catcher arrives and carelessly gets too close to those dogs.
Once a ladder is found and the dog-catcher is safely down off the roof and his knees stop cnocking our lad’s new dogs are threatened with destruction but not until their registration is paid.

Then the fire service wanted new extinguishers and a hydrant installed (they could help with the extinguishers at great cost but an approved plumber would have to do the hydrant.
More big dollars.

The workplace health and safety people, firstly, wanted a guard over the crankshaft grinder –
(that grinding wheel is only a metre in diameter, weighs about 30 kilos and spins at about 3000RPM. It is not much less brittle than a stick of chalk and if it hits the lumpy bit of a crankshaft instead of the journal intended to be ground – it explodes like a bomb. Crankshaft grinding is one of those tasks easier to do than to describe, except it takes astounding skill, knowledge, confidence and a great deal of concentration. It is also VERY important to be able to SEE what is happening. It does not take a rocket scientist to work out that a guard would do little to protect a stupid crankshaft grinding machine operator.)
- then more washing facilities – and more toilets. (presumably in case a crankshaft grinding wheel DID explode, startle someone and result in an adverse, embarrassing reaction.)
Then, increased rent.
Then more power costs -

All of which takes us full circle back to the suppositories in the workplace first aid kit.

Ask our bloke about that he’d reflect for a while, grin cynically, then say something like – “Well, since I never get time to take a dump, let alone wash my hands and have lunch – those suppositories’d be pretty bloody useless. Besides which those crankshaft grinding wheels DO go off once in a while, without notice, just by themselves.”

To be completely fair there is some merit in short cycling, reclaiming, then recycling items like motor vehicles. There’s a deal of that happening efficiently elsewhere in the world but it takes networking and cooperation among a number of disparate industries and active encouragement from government.

But our manufacturing base is ever decreasing and becoming under-specialised. That spiral dive has reached the stage that if anyone cared to listen they’d hear the last gurgling sluuurp as the last dregs of our industry went down the plughole.

All this crap about carbon tax and climate change has created a continuum of inaction infinitely more dangerous than the stranglehold the traditional industry combines held over innovation and alternative industry research and development.

Industry doesn’t know what to do because real industry (that collective fund of real people utilising real skills and real experience toward creating real things) has been euthanased and replaced by sycophants of nil experience doing little more than crossing off or adding zeroes to the tail-end of big numbers on some meaningless ledger, somewhere.

So there is a race toward some sort of end-game.
Our political masters have clearly decided to extinguish the traditional small business industry structures by implementing outrageous, ever escalating, costs increases.
It seems as if the proprietor of the small shop enterprise is just so damned far beneath their notice as to be insignificant.
But those nice clean, well groomed people who work in offices – well they are different.
Different all right – in not producing a bloody thing other than nausea and complication in an already overcomplicated and increasingly futile, dystopic, life.

“Truth is stranger than fiction – because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; truth isn’t.” - Mark Twain.)

But of course, according to the masters, pragmatism means eggs have to be broken to make omelettes; meanwhile their false constructs about economies of scale means that big inevitably has to be better in every aspect of commerce.

But who cares, for instance, if General Electric/Rolls Royce just lost their multi-billion dollar F35 engine deal with US Defense the other day. The people who created RR, whose skills made RR, are long gone, broken in spirit and made redundant after some snarky, pointless, backstabbing corporate takeover initiated by a certain traitorous British defence white paper half a lifetime ago.
( - of course, we don’t have to worry about shit happening like that here. We’ve sold all our manufacturing ability off shore. D.R.. Editor)

After all US taxpayers are only USD 3 Billion out of pocket on that one cancelled project. Merely a drop in the bucket.
But who cares at GE/RR either. The ‘Big Men’ can shed a couple of thousand ‘new generation’ employees tomorrow then nip out for a game of golf on the spare change from that 3 billion.

Nothing much changes.
The rich get richer and the poor get to renege on their mortgages and occasionally, to save a lot of bother just go and top ‘emselves.

* ‘They’ – Definition –
The ‘person-in-the-street’. Frequently inarticulate when pressed for an opinion in public, often incorrectly labeled and dismissed as illiterate, but insightful and outstandingly common-sensical
Furthermore -
1 – ‘They’ always have an opinion.
2 – ‘They’ enjoy applying labels – or leastways are often blamed for applying labels – “‘They’ call me the ‘Sonora Kid’” – “’They’ call me ‘Moon Unit’” – ‘They’ reckon the latest scuttlebutt is - . etc.
3 – ‘They’ may have given up sticking up for the underdog these days, but they sure hate being patronised.
4 – ‘They’ are becoming increasingly aware that they are being ‘suckered’ at every turn.

Interview time –

Arthur – That read about right to you, does it?
P – “As a preamble to what I need to say it covers the basics of what happens to self employed Australians.
I don’t have the figures as to how that pans out but in this part of the world most small businesses last for less than five years and all too often results in bankruptcy. Then bankruptcy is followed by break-up of family then suicide.
Some people find a lucky niche that provides them something of a monopoly or marketing advantage but all too often a groundbreaking idea that catches on is followed by copycat businesses that destroy profitability for all concerned.
Then, in this ‘just-in-time’ new-age world specialist businesses can rarely afford to maintain a complete inventory of stock and spares – or more importantly convince the customer that risk management can be best achieved in their favour by ordering product through their local agent.

Arthur – Okay – hypotheticals time. A young bloke comes back to town to get married to the girl next door. He’s been at the mines working his butt off for the last five years.
He’s a mechanic by trade but while at the mines he’s learned a few other tricks and accumulated a fair deal of money.
He knows that his fiancé won’t want to leave town and that the only mechanic’s work in town is the odd job at peak time with some dealership or other.
He sees the only option is to look for a niche and set up his own business.
Like me, he loves motorcycles so he’s thinking about something along those lines.
What is ahead of him?
P – “Like your mate, above; a world of unwarranted nausea.
Firstly, if he loves his motorcycles he’d be better off keeping them in a space where he can keep doing that. Maybe he’d be better off selling rare coins, bootleg booze, or something.
Fair dinkum, that way he’ll have more of the local bikers visit him in the first five years than if he established a dedicated motorcycle repairs shop.

Arthur – Why?
P – “If he sets up his shingle as a sole trader he won’t have as many compliance issues with Workplace Health and Safety and so on as he would if he started with employees, a showroom and the full sheebang.
But he’ll still need an office or reception area of some sort to segregate his work area, plant and tools from customers, especially the light fingered sort.
If he manages to generate any clientele approximately 40 percent will be the sort who want to stay all day shooting the breeze.
The other 60 percent will arrive in a rush just at closing time.
He cannot be in two places at once and if he sacrifices shop time to ‘customer relations’ time his throughput and profitability will suffer while vise versa he’ll be labeled a ‘grumpy bastard just there for the money’ and his custom base will rapidly evaporate.
Of course he could have help in.
If his new wife volunteers and is even half-way good looking he’s in even more strife with faux ‘customers hanging around like blue-arsed flies.
If he takes on a trainee or apprentice he’ll have additional overheads,workplace compliance issues and be spending more time training than working for too long.”

Arthur – A road going nowhere, then?
P – “Going in cold, it almost always is.
Some people manage if they are lucky enough to find a niche. But you asked about the motorcycle trade and I believe you could relate that to any sort of competitive industry.
If your bloke makes it past the first hurdles the next small town thing that’ll happen to him is the badmouthing and backstabbing.
The competition will know about him before he opens his doors.
That will happen compliments of the ‘trade’ and in result of your hypothetical proprietor contacting trade related firms while organizing stock and spares inventory for his shop.
Let’s face it, none of these people are all that bright. Certainly not bright enough to understand ‘commercial in confidence’, for instance.
Naturally, anyone would look pretty stupid calling your bloke a bad mechanic before he started work.
They’ll wait a while to see if he’s any good and what sort of clientele he’s dragging in.
Of course if he’s no good there’s no problem but if it looks like he’s making headway, then watch out.
Especially watch out if he’s attracted a few of the opposition’s customers ‘cos then he’ll rapidly become aware of some of the shonky practices employed by some of the unscrupulous in the established trade.”
(Shonky practices, a sampling – Generic Chinese made spare parts fitted into ‘genuine factory spares’ packaging. Camchain bought by the drumfull, cut to length and packaged  by schoolkids after school, then shipped out and sold at ‘genuine’ prices by ‘select dealers’. The popular transverse, four cylinder, Japanese motorcycle. Set up the valve running clearance tight on the inner two cylinders.
For that matter, they never go near ‘em at service time. Too much bother to get at. The owner will never notice except he’ll need a top-end rebuild in about half the usual number of miles. – D.R., Editor)

Arthur – So round about the same time my bloke gets to see some of his own bills being paid, the fun begins. Something like the Clantons and the James Gang, eh? Payback, just for existing, like?
P – “Something like that. By this time your bloke will be looking for a way out of his predicament. Making income has begun to cost more than he’s making.
He might decide to ask about a dealership or a franchise.
That will involve the outlay of more money than he could ever expect to recover, the banks will refuse to finance a deal and all of a sudden he’s heard about all these disgruntled customers he’d never even met.”

Arthur – Stop there. He’s been at the mines for years. He’s heterosexual. He doesn’t have a large, influential family or friends in high places.
As I was saying said he’s not ‘gay’, female, or coloured so can’t call on any special-interest-support-group - he isn’t in the Lodge, not even a Lionie, (for those Seppos out there a ‘Lionie’ is a small-beer Mason, a Shriner, that sort of creature – D.R. - Editor) nor has relatives in the police ’service’, in politics nor the blighted bureaucracy, nor public service, nor the bloody banks.
Nothing like that at all.
You’re saying he’s stuffed, completely out on a limb, aren’t you?
P – “Hey, Arthur. He’s your hypothetical. But within your scenario he is indeed stuffed. All he ever wanted to do is come home, marry his girl and make a living for them and their kids.
He’s a bright lad who couldn’t believe that life is so competitive.
He’s an IDEALIST – you know; the sort of idiot we both once were.”

Arthur – But he’s stuffed. He can’t go anywhere. He can’t call on anyone to help him and he’s going to be rogered stiff by the local mafia. More than likely they’ll set fire to his workshop one dark night using the Trades Practices Act and a cupful of kero as an accelerant.
P – “Well, it HAS happened that way in the past.
At this stage his competitors will be sending round their mates to see what he’s up to in the shop. If he has a job on the bench he’ll get called out front or onto the phone. While he’s distracted some parts might go missing – valve spring retaining collets or something annoying like that – something that won’t be immediately noticed missing will be flicked under a bench, down a drain, or out the back door.
After that the ‘spies’ will go down the pub and gripe publicly about your bloke’s work and attitude to prospective customers.
Not only isn’t he organised, they’ll say at opportune times, what with losing all those parts, but the paranoid prick reckoned we’d been pinching his customer’s parts.
Of course anyone nearby who happened to be listening would believe the worst.
After all they were only rubbernosing – not being addressed directly.
So, in jig-time word is spread around town that the new mechanic ain’t worth patronizing even if he does actually offer good service at the cheapest rates in town.
As the bank will tell him once he gets really desperate, if he fronts up for finance for a franchise or dealership – ‘his options will have become exhausted’.
As you say, he’s stuffed.”

Arthur – As an ethical journo, writing a balanced article for this family blog, I’m required to ask the next question – even though I know the answer. Here goes -
We all know that Paul Keating once said something like ‘Welcome to the Banana Republic’.
We all know that country towns and regional centres have been in ‘hard scrabble mode’ for decades now.
 We all know that, in this environment, ‘commercial decisions’ are arrived at for the most stupid and simplistic considerations without any sensible advice from our administrators or those who claim profound knowledge as to the successful direction of our nation.
In fact we are ‘locked in’ here to running with a set of the same ‘decisionmakers’  who have ‘ruled the roost’ in our region for most of our lifetimes.
For some reason you give the impression that you have a problem with that – that you somehow doubt their wisdom and the efficacy of the services they have provided your community.
Okay – here comes the question.
Can you please provide some proof that this region is underachieving? (This is one of those rigged questions the press always resort to. I have the document before me and I’ve already studied it and can verify its veracity.
Also - - note how only those already established get to slurp out of the gravy boat)
P – “Will one do? I mean an important document defining the actual status of our region back when  the commonwealth government had a few decent National Party members like the Deputy Prime Minister? I mean seeing that our present time server is a National Party man –“

Arthur – Yes. That’s the one you gave me so it has to be the one we’re talking about. Now since I’ve googled the bloody thing and, for the record, have read your project proposal, I can corroborate what you are about to say – then why not get into it?
P – “ ‘Unsustainable Regions’ then. Not a problem. According to our Federal Government we were ‘unsustainable’. Couldn’t make our way.
Couldn’t begin to find our way into the future.
Thousands of people arriving here from down south being ripped-off of their last assets and having to move on to regions with even less opportunities for them.
And John Anderson, the, then, deputy PM, implementing a scheme to call a halt to that sort of thing.”

Arthur – The reader might think I’m going off at a tangent here with these questions. It will become clear why I’ve asked them, later.
At the time your outfit had succeeded in winning a government contract and networking for manufacture and supply of the product you had designed to fit the requirement?
Let’s run through that. You were contacted, cold, by ISO, the Australian industry database and asked if you could invent a way to stop coppers from shooting themselves with their new auto pistols?
You were expected to pluck a winning idea out of the air and in a day or two try out the idea and organize the complete production, delivery and service schedules?
You then had to write up a preliminary proposal and send that off to the customer for approval in the hope they would order a prototype for testing and not just rip-off your design and give it to one of their mates for manufacture?
Right so far?
P – “Yep. Firing on all four.”

Arthur – Is it correct that you were requested to comply with a ‘Queensland Purchasing Policy’ document that was mailed to you by the customer (Qld police)?
Did you know that the document was a draft document that, at the time, was not yet approved and had not been gazetted?
P – “Correct on both counts.”
Arthur – So in result you were stuck refining your design, putting together your entire project and the network of ten local businesses AND at the same time writing volumes of ‘commercial-in-confidence’ information off to the ‘customer’ and responding to a series of, what seems now, petty, irritating, and ridiculous requests for further information?
P – “Oh, yes. And as the project started coming together it became increasingly clear that the other firms in the network were seriously looking for work.
It reached the point of no return and left me feeling that not only was I fighting to bring in an income for my own family but doing a fair deal of unpaid work representing the interests of the others in the ‘network’.
On top of that, of course, was putting something together like that on the basis of a handshake agreement.
It was all nothing really new industry-wise since everyone has had to rely upon outside suppliers and outsourced services since forever – but to formalise the project and the various network elements and to put that on paper in a satisfactory way was definitely something new for some of those involved.

Arthur - Was any of that extra work necessary, say, to comply with that purchasing policy paper?
P – “Like I said Arthur it seemed the whole scheme was about making work for bureaucrats by stuffing us about royally with mounds of make-work.
The thing is that governments increasingly seem to generate more make-work then resent it when people send it back to them on time and every time.
Putting it bluntly I reckon the bureaucrats never read the stuff.
I’d say they go by volume – that the big contractors employ enough junior accountants and legals to turn out the stuff en-masse and by rote.
About all the bureaucrats do is set up some scales –
‘Oh look GDs proposal weighs in at 38kg – that beats BAe at 29kg – therefore GDs wins.’
Maybe it helps too, if some of the weight is made up of a few kilos of high denomination, used notes.
No wonder the mailing package has to be marked clearly – ‘To be opened ONLY by the contractual authority’.”

Arthur – Anyway, drawing closer to the punchline – you and your network DID succeed. There’s almost three hundred of your gadgets in everyday use by coppers in police stations all over Queensland. Never a complaint about operability, serviceability or fitness for purpose.
P – “ Correct.”

Arthur – In other words you were doing groundbreaking, innovative stuff. Not only were you winning work for yourself with your own designs and ideas but you were promoting the capability of several other local yokels, bringing them work, creating employment opportunities AND all that against competition from the big firms in the capital cities and their pals the parasites and bureaucrats.
P – “Well said, correct. And to drive this article to some sort of punchline, the ‘masters’ in Canberra claimed to ‘acknowledge and understand’ the detriment people in industry were suffering.”

Arthur – except as usual the rotten bastards didn’t give a shit about peasants like you.
No. Exactly the opposite, I’ll warrant.
Just another pork-barrelling exercise. Half a mill plus to this or that mob of established exploiters of limited slave labour and, say, 150 grand, small beer, to this or that other loyal party member to keep him/her in the manner to which he/she is accustomed as a fill-in until that creep’s next guaranteed job.
Hey, they reckon that boats are nothing but a hole in the water. A bloody big hole into which some dill pours excess money.
What I’ve seen here beats that hollow.
A quick calculation puts over 8 MILLION being pissed into various urinals all over the region.”
But I suppose at least the golf clubs, etc., did well.
So what do you reckon. Who did well out of it?
P – “No bastard. Not if you mean job creation or an investment in the future for the region and most certainly not if we pretended to provide jobs and an adequate ‘lifestyle’ for the sort of people who, through no choice of their own, are emigrating here from the southern states.”

Arthur – And you reckon the whole show is stitched up by experts – but if it wasn’t and the greedy bastards somehow could be neutered – that you could do better?
P – “Put it this way. As I pointed out in my submission for the DOTARS scheme the region had some industry remaining. That industry base traditionally supported the region well over the last century. It was demonstrably flexible and able to respond reasonably well to adversity and poor cash-flow situations caused by the agrarian boom and bust cycles typical of our region.
It also possessed a great number of people who needed to impart their skills to the next generation.
Their heritage has been EXCISED from the equation by greedy bastards.
Their hopes for the future have been pissed against the urinal wall.
I did some checking today. Googled some of those ‘entities’ listed at – - and those that weren’t established business with plant and cash-flow previous to the DOTARS grant have mostly disappeared.
One little beauty mentioned in Hansard was a grant for almost half a million on top of a fair deal over one hundred thousand with another FOUR MILLION waiting to be slurped up. It just doesn’t rate as accountable government.”

Arthur – Oohh, you idiot. Stop bellyaching about them. After all what does the premier say – “That’s PAST history, never look back”.
What was YOUR proposal?  Was It for yourself or for everyone like you in the region in industry trying to find new ways to make a living in difficult, changing times?
P – “My proposal was simple. It called on funding to set up a professional internet presence able to act as a one stop shop for anyone in the district who was doing industry and looking for projects. I believe it would have been a damned good showcase to encourage existing businesses to learn some useful new tricks. To network effectively so that they could have saved costs, chased more ambitious projects and lobbied effectively together to bring new work to town.
I reckon the ‘selection committee’ saw that as ‘commie’ and a direct threat to their corrupt comfort zone.
So, the bludgers, first chance they had, first slip we made, they closed us down.
They closed us down – that was their opportunity – when our son died and we were in grief.”

Arthur – You silly goose. I found a reference to you in a New Zealand blog the other day. He rated you this way – “I think he is an Australian National Treasure.”
Exported to NZ once or twice, didn’t you?

Maybe we should all pack up and piss off over there?

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